How To Avoid Craigslist Scams: A Comprehensive Guide

For almost three decades, Craigslist has been the go-to online marketplace for a reason – it works. You can list just about anything for sale and no matter what it is, chances are, someone will be interested. As a buyer, you have the freedom to negotiate the price and you don’t have to pay shipping fees because Craigslist is local.

Most of the time, transactions go smoothly. But like any online marketplace, Craigslist also attracts scammers looking for an easy payday. Whether you’re a regular on the site or just thinking about trying it out, here’s a rundown of Craigslist scams to look for and best practices to use as you shop or sell, especially if you have a big-ticket item like a car or a home for sale in mind.


How Common Are Craigslist Scams? 

Craigslist is sort of a “Wild West” when compared to other sites of similar popularity. There isn’t much moderation or policing in comparison to the scope of the site. The actual number of Craigslist scams is hard to estimate, as many of them go unreported or the listings expire. 

A 2014 study by NYU estimated that 1.5% of real estate listings on Craigslist were fraudulent (29,000 listings out of about 2,000,000 in a 141 day period across 20 cities). This study only examined real estate, so site-wide figures are unknown.  


9 Essential Tips To Avoid Craigslist Scams

Even if you don’t detect anything suspicious (but especially if you do), follow these best practices whenever you buy or sell through Craigslist:

  • Never wire money in advance
  • Only accept cash
  • Evaluate listings carefully before agreeing to meet
  • Reverse-search photos in listings to make sure they weren’t stolen
  • Look for other red flags in the listing to save you time (see “How To Spot A Craigslist Scam” below)
  • Make sure the buyer or seller is willing to meet in person
  • Always examine the goods in person
  • Never give out more information than necessary
  • Trust your gut – if something doesn’t feel right, walk away immediately


Crucial Craigslist Safety Tips

Craigslist safety tips for physical safety and fraud protection

Any time you share information online or meet face-to-face with a stranger from the internet, it’s best to take a few precautions. You should carefully evaluate listings and the other party before agreeing to meet face-to-face. Check out Craigslist’s safety guidelines as a starting point. We go into more detail about these safety tips below. 


Trust Your Gut – Your Safety Is #1

While violent crimes and thefts aren’t a common occurrence for Craigslist dealings, they are a risk – as they are any time you’re meeting face-to-face with a stranger. Your personal safety is the first priority, items are replaceable. If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, get away as fast as you can and notify authorities when it is safe to do so.

      • Always bring your phone and a friend
      • Trust yourself, if you feel unsafe – leave


Meet In A Local Public Place 

At the very least, you should arrange to meet somewhere that’s well-lit and populated, like a coffee shop, diner or mall. Even better are SafeTrade Stations, which are designated areas at police stations or similar law enforcement buildings.

      • “Deal locally and face-to-face” is Craigslist’s number one tip to avoid scams
      • Don’t pursue offers that involve shipping, that’s not Craigslist’s M.O.
      • Meet at your local police station’s parking lot or a “SafeTrade” location.


Bring Backup 

It’s always a good idea to bring someone along like a friend or family member. There’s less likelihood of any shady business, and chances are you’ll feel much more comfortable with a familiar face around.

      • Bring a friend with you to a public meeting place
      • Let a third party know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, or check-in regularly


Deal In Cash – Carefully 

Most people know Craigslist is primarily for cash-only deals, which helps prevent sellers from getting scammed. With that said, you don’t want to bring a duffel bag of hundred-dollar bills somewhere. If you’re buying an expensive item, tell the seller you’ll go to an ATM after checking things out – or you could even meet at a bank.

Craigslist becomes riskier as the price of what you’re buying or selling goes up. Be even more cautious when dealing with high-value or rare items.

      • Never wire funds 
      • Be wary about selling or buying high-value items
      • Don’t accept checks (certified or cashier) or money orders – if you give the bank a fake, you’ll be held responsible. 


Protect Your Identity 

The key to avoiding identity theft is always safeguarding your personal details as much as possible. As a seller on Craigslist, be sure to use the site’s proxy email address feature so you don’t have to give out your personal email. As a buyer, you’ll need to use a disposable email service like Mailinator or Maildrop. 

Whether you’re buying or selling, you can also avoid giving out your phone number by using Google Voice, which lets you use a different phone number to receive calls and texts on your phone. One more thing if you’re a seller: many smartphones will embed data in the photo about where it was taken. Be sure to erase personal data before posting photos of an item for sale.

      • Never give out personal data (address, ZIP code, ID numbers, etc.) 
      • Never give out financial information (bank account, PayPal account, Social Security, etc.)
      • Avoid giving out your primary phone number and email
      • Never undergo “background” or “credit checks” without verifying the validity of the offer
      • Bonus tip: If you do decide to use personal contact info, spell out numbers and characters in your contact info to keep spam bots from picking it up (example: [at] gmail [dot] com)


How To Spot A Craigslist Scam

Signs of a Craigslist scam in a listing

There’s no surefire way to spot every Craigslist con, but knowing the most common red flags will make it a lot easier to avoid getting ripped off.

      • Communications from someone who isn’t in your area
      • Poor spelling or grammar
      • A seller who claims to be out of town or otherwise unavailable
      • Requests for wire transfers, cashier’s checks or money orders
      • Requests for personal details like a Social Security number, PIN code or password
      • A buyer or seller who’s anxious to get a deal done quickly
      • The person receiving the call is referred to as a “pickup agent”


These same red flags apply to communications as well. Often times, scammers will sound “off.” Keep an eye out for red flags throughout the buying and selling process.

Signs of a Craigslist scam in messaging


How To Report A Scammer On Craigslist

If you ever spot a suspicious listing, encounter someone trying to pull a fast one or fall victim to a scam on Craigslist, be sure to file a report with Craigslist, especially if the post is still active. Also notify your local authorities immediately – if it’s an emergency situation, call 911; if the situation isn’t an emergency, call your local police station office so they can direct you to the proper department. 

Craigslist has curated a list of who to reach out to (in addition to their internal team and local authorities), see those contacts below:



Common Craigslist Scam Tactics

common Craigslist scam tactics

Since 1995 when the site launched, con artists have tweaked age-old scams and created new ones to target both buyers and sellers. Here are a few of the most common Craigslist cons to watch out for.


Ticket Scammer

Whether you’re buying plane tickets or concert tickets, you need to be on the lookout for fraud. Even if you see photos of the tickets you think you’re buying, they might have been stolen, counterfeited, expired, canceled or might not even exist at all. And if you’re trying to get into a sold-out event, there isn’t always much time to make sure the tickets you get are legit. 

So, do your best to validate the tickets with the information you have. Ask for seller’s invoices stating the tickets have been paid for. Get the account number and call the ticket rep for confirmation. In every instance, research the tickets you’re buying as much as you can to make sure everything checks out.

      • Scammers posts sold-out tickets, stolen or fake “discounted” tickets
      • If you can’t verify the tickets with the event venue, don’t go through with the deal


How To Avoid This:

Avoid buying resale tickets on Craigslist. Verified resale sites might cost more, but you know they’re real. Facebook Marketplace or Groups are safer bets because you can better vet the seller, but they’re also not foolproof.


The Overpaying Buyer

This involves a scammer posing as a buyer who sends you a check or money order that exceeds the agreed-upon price. The fake buyer will apologize for sending too much and request that you send back the difference. Only trouble is, the check or money order is fake. Oftentimes, sellers won’t realize this until they’ve sent a check of their own to the scammer and it’s too late.

Also, look out for buyers who don’t ask enough questions about the product, don’t try to negotiate or offer to pay for shipping. Scammers will pay you for what you’re selling and pay with a check and then request the item. It’s usually too late after you’ve sent the item when your bank lets you know the check you deposited is fake.

      • Scammers will “buy” your offer and send a fake check for over the asking price then request you send back the extra balance  
      • Scammers will “buy” your offer, pay with a fraudulent check and then request the item


How To Avoid This:

Do business in-person and with cash. Don’t deal with people who want you to ship items, ask them to go through eBay or a different shipping service if they’re truly serious.


Spoof Sites And Social Engineering

As the public has grown wary of phony websites and giving out personal information, con artists have upped their game when it comes to creating phony sites. Crafty web designers can create sites that look almost identical to Craigslist pages, with words like “Certified” and “Official” sprinkled throughout as you’re asked to submit personal information. 

Another common fake-out involves escrow services for big money sales. In escrow scams, a supposedly legitimate third-party company holds on to payment until a buyer gets what they’re paying for. Many of these sites look legit, but as soon as you deposit any money, it’s gone.

Craigslist also warns that they never leave voicemails or request information or payment from users. If “Craigslist” reaches out to you, contact Craigslist on their official site with a screenshot of the request you received. From there, they can verify the validity of the original request. Craigslist doesn’t offer protection or verification fees or services; these are fake, too:

      • Phony pages crafted to look like Craigslist
      • Third-party scam sites that will “hold” your payment
      • Phishing (fake) emails or voicemails from “Craigslist”
      • “Craigslist” purchase protection fees and services


How To Avoid This:

Visit the real Craigslist site for any offers, don’t click links in emails and don’t send money to any third-party sites or people claiming to work for Craigslist. 


Dream Job Offer

There are many legitimate job postings on Craigslist every day, but scammers and identity thieves will use this to their advantage. They’ll post a job that’s too good to resist, with great pay, minimal requirements, and possibly work-from-home benefits. Once you’ve applied, they’ll request personal information for “background checks” so they can steal or sell your identity.

In another example, the scammer will ask you (the job applicant) for application fees or some other dubious payment. Then when it comes time for an interview, the scammer will go silent and get away with your money.

      • The scammer will lure applicants in and then steal their identity when the applicant agrees to a fake “background check”
      • The scammer poses as a company and posts a job that doesn’t exist to convince applicants to pay for fake application fees


How To Avoid This:

If you see a job that piques your interest, go to the company website and check it out. Sites can be faked as well, so look for reviews of the company online, and check out their social media and employee ratings (Glassdoor). Once you’ve determined the position is real, then you can apply.

Real job applications or interviewers will never ask for any type of payment, steer clear of anything that does.


The Real Estate Deal You Can’t Refuse 

A common Craigslist scam in the rental section involves a “homeowner” listing a home for rent, complete with all the details and plenty of photos. After you express interest, the scammer will explain that they’re out of town or dealing with a messy divorce, and as a result, they’re looking to rent the place out fast but unfortunately aren’t available for a showing. 

You’ll be asked to wire a deposit and first month’s rent in advance if you want to take advantage of the bargain, after which you’ll never hear from the fake seller again. In some cases, scammers rent out a place and list it as if it were their own. This allows them to show the place off and collect deposits and down payments before skipping town.

      • The “homeowner” will post a property that they don’t have the right to rent
      • The posting is completely fake, stolen from another site or created using stock images 
      • There are extenuating circumstances as to why they’re rushing to rent the place 
      • They push for payment without you seeing the property first


How To Avoid This:

Never wire money. Never put a payment down for a rental without seeing the place and receiving legitimate legal documents (i.e. the lease). Reverse search listing images and look up the property on other sites.

See more tips relating to real estate in the section below.



Real Estate And Craigslist Scams

Craigslist safety tips for home sellers and home buyers

Sections that feature big-ticket items like cars and homes are immensely popular on Craigslist, but they also attract a significant amount of spam and scams. Most fraudulent postings and inquiries are obvious and easily ignored – though still a pain to sift through. Others are far more sophisticated, which means you always need to stay alert.

When it comes to homes, many real estate agents and for sale by owners use the site primarily before open houses. Because there’s no fee to use it and it reaches so many people quickly, Craigslist is a great way to drum up a lot of interest. See some tips specifically for buyers and sellers below.


Safety Tips For Home Buyers

As a buyer, you can see a lot of homes for sale in one place on Craigslist and use it before setting out to do some FSBO house-hunting. Before visiting a listing as a buyer:

      • Contact the seller for more details
      • Ask for additional photos not shown on Craigslist
      • Cross-reference with other home listing sites – serious sellers will list on other sites
      • Reverse image search the property images
      • Bring someone with you, preferably during a public open house
      • Ask a friend in real estate if the listing looks legitimate
      • Trust your gut and don’t go into a situation that you don’t feel comfortable with

How To List Your Home On Craigslist Safely

The most important aspects of an attention-grabbing listing that drives visibility include your headline, property images, proper pricing and how frequently you give the listing a refresh. But optimizing your listing isn’t the most important part when posting on Craigslist – safety should be priority number one. 



When you write your headline, avoid using your home’s address or the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. In most cases, a blur of numbers won’t stand out and draw a buyer in. Instead, make sure your headline has at least a little appeal and is location-specific – something like “Beautifully Furnished Springfield Home for Sale.” The same goes for your property description, don’t give away any personal information. Keep it just vague enough that it still drums up interest.



It’s always important to protect yourself and your belongings when you show your home to prospective buyers, and even more so when you publicize it to the kind of massive audience Craigslist attracts. It’s best practice to remove photos of your family, valuable decor pieces and jewelry from view in your staged home photos.


Remove Valuables

Be sure to remove all valuables, keys, personal photos and prescription drugs from the property. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye out as people come and go. Also, check with your insurance carrier so you know what your policy covers, just to be safe.


Bottom line: Craigslist is a highly beneficial tool to buy or sell anything, as long as you’re aware of the risks and how to avoid the dangers. This goes double for buying or selling something that can have a major impact on your financial future, like a car or a home. Click the button below to save essential Craigslist tips.


download safety tips button

Craigslist is great for generating and providing visibility if you are selling your own home. But when it comes to big-money deals, it’s typically best used as one marketing tool among many other tools like social media to broaden your buyer audience. It’s also important to house your listing on a more sophisticated for sale by owner platform. Looking to get started? We’re happy to help you optimize your listing and home pricing for a maximum return.


The Top 10 For Sale By Owner States [New Data]

For sale by owner sellers know they may face challenges. Selling a home without the help of an agent comes with its own set of obstacles, but the appeal of saving money and selling on your own makes FSBO worth it for thousands of homeowners every year. 

Not only are families looking for their forever home, but investors are looking for new properties to add to their portfolio as well. Real estate is still one of the top investment areas, as millionaires consistently list it as an essential part of their success.

As we all know, “location, location, location” is everything in real estate. It’s also fairly important, it turns out, when it comes to who sells the most FSBO homes. Selling by-owner is more popular in some areas than others, and depending on what state you live in, you may be joining a large number of other entrepreneurial spirits when you list your FSBO home on the market.

So, where do most of these FSBO sellers reside?

To find out which states are the most popular for FSBO listings, we dug into our state-level data to figure out how many sellers per state are listing their homes on, how those percentages compared to the national total, along with the median prices across those listings. Now, we’re sharing that proprietary data with you. Additional data has been pulled from the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and US News and CoreLogic to provide factors that are important to home-buying or investing, like year-over-year (YOY) population growth, YOY job growth, US State Education Rank and YOY average home equity increase.  

Read on to find out which states outperformed the rest.


Hottest States For Investing In FSBO Property 

illustrated map of the the US and which states are the best for for sale by owner

Which states in the U.S. held the highest percentage of properties listed and sold on Let’s take a look at the top ten states for investments in 2019 (through December 28). 


10. Ohio

FSBO Ohio: Median Listing: $205,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $7k Population Growth: 0.5% US Education Rank: #31 YOY Job Growth: 0.5%

The Buckeye State starts off our top 10 list with 3.8% of FSBO listings. Ohio homes also saw strong year-over-year home equity growth with the average home gaining about $7,000 in value. The average listing price comes in right at $205,000, the most affordable state on our list right behind Illinois.

Mashvisor noted that Ohio is a great place to invest due to its affordability, profitability and appreciation — the top cities to invest in include Columbus, Hudson, Madison and Marion. Some cities have median listings that land below the $100,000 mark, like Dayton at $98,266. The affordable prices and equity growth make Ohio an accessible and worthy market to invest in. 


9. Louisiana

FSBO Louisiana: Median Listing: $230,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $6k Population Growth: -0.3% US Education Rank: #48 YOY Job Growth: -0.1%

Louisiana comes in at number nine with 3.9% of the listings and a median listing price of $230,000. Homes in this state saw an average equity growth of $6,000. Job and population growth experienced a small decline year-over-year but this slow growth is trending across the US according to the US Census 

The equity returns were strong in Louisiana with an average of $6,000 across homes in the state. If you’re interested in real estate in the Bayou State, Neighborhood Scouts ranked Gibsberry, Hackberry and New Orleans as the top appreciating cities in Louisiana.


8. New Jersey

FSBO New Jersey: Median Listing: $415,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $5k Population Growth: 0.3% US Education Rank: #2 YOY Job Growth: 1.2%

Coming in at number eight on our list is New Jersey with 4.0% of listings. New Jersey had the most expensive median listing price on our list at $415,000, surprisingly coming in above New York. You could likely score a great property for less than the median listing by knowing the specific city and neighborhood market well and using some tried and true negotiation tactics.

New Jersey is a great option for families looking to settle down – it offers suburban neighborhoods like Cherry Hill and North Caldwell as well as an impressive education system that ranks #2 in the country. So you can rest assured that when you move with your kids, their education will be in good hands.


7. Georgia

FSBO Georgia: Median Listing: $244,900 YOY Home Equity Growth: $7k Population Growth: 2.1% US Education Rank: #30 YOY Job Growth: 1.6%

The Peach State made our list with 4.1% of listings with the median price of $244,900. Growing families can expect to find a lot of great options as 66% of Georgia’s market is comprised of single-family homes. Some of the best suburbs for families are Decatur, Johns Creek and Berkeley Lake. 

Georgia’s average home equity growth was strong at $7,000 year-over-year. Job and population growth were also peachy keen, growing 1.6%  and 2.1% respectively. If you’re looking for the best place to kick off your career, Atlanta is your best bet, the Brookwood Hills neighborhood to be specific.


6. Michigan

FSBO Michigan: Median Listing: $240,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $7k Population Growth: 0.5% US Education Rank: #37 YOY Job Growth: 0.4%

Michigan comes in at #6 with 4.2% of listings and a median listing price of $240,000. There are plenty of starter-home listings for those looking in the range of $225,000 and lower, as well as options for more established investors too. The average home equity growth was about $7,000 across the state. 

Ann Arbor (#47) and Novi (#23) earned spots in Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” report. If you’re looking for something closer to city life, some top suburbs and neighborhoods include Bloomfield Charter Township or Birmingham outside of Detroit, as well as Eastgate or Heritage Hill outside of Grand Rapids.


5. North Carolina

FSBO North Carolina: Median Listing: $221,500 YOY Home Equity Growth: $8k Population Growth: 2.2% US Education Rank: #25 YOY Job Growth: 1.7%

Coming in as the fifth-largest state for FSBO properties listed and sold on, the Tar Heel state held 4.7% of listings. The median listing price for FSBO homes in North Carolina was $221,500.

That North Carolina made this list is no surprise; the real estate market there has seen a lot of growth in recent years and is slated to only keep getting bigger. In fact, North Carolina cities grabbed two spots in the “top five markets to watch in 2020” of PwC’s most recent “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” report, with the Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham areas both listed for their growing economies and job offerings, especially in the technology sector.


4. New York

FSBO New York: Median Listing: $358,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $1k Population Growth: -0.5% US Education Rank: #22 YOY Job Growth: 1%

In fourth place is New York state with 5.0% of listings in 2019. For New York FSBO sellers, the median listing price was $358,500, making it the most expensive state in this faction of the market overview. This makes sense, as New York is home to the most expensive real estate market in the country.

In fact, New York is actually home to several expensive real estate markets. If you look at the boroughs of New York City each as its own real estate market, three of those boroughs make the list of the top 10 most expensive real estate markets in the U.S., with Queens at number 10, Brooklyn at number four and Manhattan at number one.

If you’re thinking of listing your FSBO home in one of these pricey markets, be sure to do your research on 2020 predictions for NYC real estate and be prepared for a buyer’s market.


3. Illinois

FSBO Illinois: Median Listing: $214,900 YOY Home Equity Growth: $1k Population Growth: -0.6% US Education Rank: #19 YOY Job Growth: 1%

The third-most-popular state for FSBO listings was the “Land of Lincoln,” Illinois. In 2019, Illinois saw a 5.1% of FSBO listings. Illinois’s median listing price was $214,900.

If you’re planning on listing your FSBO in Illinois, you should know that home sales were lagging as of October 2019, down 2.9% state-wide compared to October 2018. Chicago sales were also down by 2.8%, and were down 3.3% for the overall Chicago metro area, according to Illinois REALTORS®. Homebuyers in this state are looking for affordability, so savvy home sellers should go into the process ready to negotiate.


2. Texas

FSBO Texas: Median Listing: $229,000 YOY Home Equity Growth: $5k Population Growth: 2.7% US Education Rank: #34 Job Growth: 2.6%

Everything is bigger in Texas, including its share of FSBO sellers. In 2019, the Lone Star state had 6.9% of listings. The average home equity growth was $5,000 and the median listing price for FSBOs in Texas was $229,000.

Texas real estate also made it onto PwC’s list of the top five markets to watch in 2020. Austin, the wonderfully weird state capital, earned the number one spot on that list. Home values in Austin are expected to continue rising through 2020 and the real estate and job markets should remain strong.


1. Florida

FSBO Florida: Median Listing: $262,250 YOY Home Equity Growth: $8k Population Growth: 3.3% US Education Rank: #3 Job Growth: 2.6%

Snagging the first-place spot is everyone’s favorite vacation (and retirement) destination, sunny Florida. Florida had an abundance of FSBO sellers in 2019, with a whopping 11.5% of total listings. Florida’s median listing price was $262,250 with average home equity growth of $8,000.

There’s no shortage of people wanting to move to Florida, which means that demand remains high year-round. This is good news for sellers – especially those who are in the most desirable areas. What’s more, home values are projected to rise faster in Florida than the overall U.S.


Important Takeaways

As a FSBO seller, you understand the importance of being educated on the market you’re selling in and doing research on any real estate trends you need to be aware of. By being able to see the median listing prices and the top states, you can get an idea of what other FSBO sellers are doing and what kind of challenges you may face.

While selling solo can be difficult at times, knowing your home’s worth and being aware of the common pitfalls of selling FSBO (and how to avoid them) can greatly improve your chances of success and make the process go much smoother.



This data was pulled from ForSaleByOwner 2019 databases (January through December). States were evaluated for their total listings against the national totals, listing conversions, total properties sold and median listing price. Also included is data pulled from the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and US News and CoreLogic to provide year-over-year (YOY) population growth, YOY job growth, US State Education Rank and YOY average home equity increase as supplementary data for investors, sellers and buyers. 

This data is provided solely for educational purposes and is not a guarantee of how your property listing or home offer could perform.



4 Ways VA Loans Help Veterans Afford Their Dream Homes

Veterans, active-duty servicemembers and other military personnel can make homeownership a reality with a VA loan. While VA loans are issued by private mortgage lenders just like conventional mortgages, they’re backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This backing allows VA lenders to offer additional benefits that wouldn’t be available otherwise.

These benefits include reduced interest rates, no mortgage insurance premiums and lower or financed closing costs. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that VA loans can help veterans afford the home of their dreams.

1.  Down Payments Are Rarely Required

One of the biggest hurdles to purchasing a home is the required down payment. VA loans, unlike conventional or FHA loans, usually don’t require down payments. This is great news, as most lenders typically require a 5% – 15% down payment for conventional mortgages.

On a $250,000 home, a 5% down payment would require having $12,500 cash on hand. Even an FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment would require several thousand dollars in cash up front.

VA loans work a little bit differently. As long as you don’t borrow more than the VA-specific county maximum loan (most counties’ maximum loan is currently about $484,000), you can take possession of a home without a down payment.

Keep in mind that if you make an offer on a home for more than it’s worth, your lender may require a down payment to protect themselves in the event of default.

2.  Credit Requirements Are Less Strict

When you apply for a conventional mortgage, your credit history will be taken into account by the lender. Since higher credit scores are considered less risky, you’ll likely receive a lower interest rate with a credit score of more than 700 as opposed to a credit score in the 500s.

If you opt for a VA home loan, there won’t be any minimum credit score requirements. However, your specific lender may have their own credit score requirements. The good news is these are usually not as stringent as the requirements of other types of home loans.

Credit score requirements for the different types of homes are as follows:

  • VA Loans:Varies by lender, but typically in the low to mid-600s. At Quicken Loans®the minimum credit score necessary for approval is 620.
  • FHA Loans: Varies by lender, but a minimum credit score of 620 is usually required.
  • USDA Loans:Varies by lender, but a minimum credit score of 640 is usually necessary for approval.
  • Conventional Loans: Varies by lender, but having a credit score below 740 will usually increase fees and interest rates.

Before you apply for a mortgage with any lender, it’s a good idea to review your credit reports, check your credit score and look for ways to boost your credit.

3.  Veterans Don’t Have To Choose Between A Loan And A Grant

If you’re a veteran with a service-related disability, you can apply for a housing grant from the VA so you can build, remodel or adapt an existing home to fit your needs. You won’t have to choose between a VA loan or a VA grant because you can have both.

The two grant programs available to disabled veterans are the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant. The SAH and SHA grant programs can help veterans with certain disabilities in the following ways:

  • Construction of a specially adapted home on land already owned or land that’s going to be bought
  • Remodeling of an existing home to make it more suitable
  • Adapting an existing home that’s already owned or a home that’s going to be bought
  • Purchasing of a home that’s already adapted

4.  VA Loan Benefits Can Be Reused

The VA loan program is not a one-and-done program, nor is it only available to first-time home buyers. VA loans are a lifelong benefit for people who have served our country in the armed forces.

If you’d like to secure another VA loan, a lender will review your VA loan entitlement. This entitlement is a specific amount of money that the VA pledges to repay a lender if you as the borrower default on a loan.

You should have no issues getting approved for a second VA loan as long as your entitlement isn’t currently pledged to another VA loan and you’ve never defaulted on a loan.

Closing Thoughts

VA home loans are one of the benefits afforded to veterans who have served our country. While the program offers many advantages over conventional and FHA loans, it’s important to compare your loan options and select the ideal one for your financial situation and lifestyle needs.

If you’re a veteran, you can take advantage of your military benefits and apply for a VA loan with no down payment through Quicken Loans.


Sustainable Communities: A Key to Happiness?

When you begin doing your research for purchasing a new home, investigating the health and sustainability of a particular community may be the key to setting yourself up for long-term happiness. Likewise, if you are putting your home on the market, sharing the intangible factors that make up your current neighborhood can be major selling points in getting the asking price that you’re looking for.

What Is Happiness?

Happiness within a community can be defined as an overall sense of well being. It includes having a sense of inclusion, protection, security, and purpose. The location of your home often determines the likelihood of finding a community that suits you and your family. Asking the right questions before purchasing a new home, or offering certain details in your posting when selling your home, can be major attractants for buyers. When selling your home, these factors can also determine your asking price, and how long it might sit on the market.

There are elements that can be easily researched for peace of mind, such as crime rates and emergency response times, but there are a bevy of other factors that can only be discovered by spending time in the neighborhood. It may be of value to know how often, if ever, there are neighborhood block parties, if your preferred place of worship is nearby, or if there are committees or neighborhood organizations that you can join to give back to others. When you participate in the activities that make up a healthy neighborhood, it serves as a mirror and that happiness reflects back upon you.

Common Traits of Healthy Communities

Ties between your lifestyle and your environment are the equation to your perceived health of a community. Whether you are looking at purchasing a vacation home or your first home, there are common traits that you will want to look for before making a purchase.


Sustainability can be defined as nurturing the economic and environmental health, as well as social equity for a prolonged amount of time. There are many elements that play into building the foundation of a sustainable community, like everyone would be expected to do their part to protect the air and water quality, and moderate efficient land use. Members would contribute to the economic health of the area and aim to provide a healthy lifestyle for all that live within the community — no matter their age, gender or ethnicity. At the very core of it, sustainability is ensuring that the location of your home contributes to your own happiness, as well as others.

Sustainability isn’t achievable without a group of members who are engaged and committed to certain shared values and goals. Sustainability efforts may be the feature that helps turn a neighborhood into a true community, and the glue that keeps that community together. If an HOA or neighborhood charter mentions things like sustainability initiatives, that may hint at a deeper link between the homes in the area.

Value of Education

If your family has school-aged children, proximity to quality school districts is going to rank high on your list. A sustainable community should foster their education system and invest in their younger generations. The World Happiness Index lists six key variables that have been found to support the well being of sustainable communities, and two major aspects are social support and income. Educated populations are less likely to be unemployed, and more likely to make a higher income than those that receive less than a high school diploma. When you are not stressed about your level of income, it contributes to elevating your level of happiness.

The support of your community is needed to ensure that appropriate funding is offered to the local school district by encouraging them to vote on education issues. By making a choice to move to a location that places value in education, you can aid in providing your children with a key to happiness.

Food Quality

An organization researched the areas in the world that had the longest life expectancy, and to uncover the commonalities that these places had — one of which turned out to be eating a mostly plant-based diet. Nearly 23.5 million people in the United States live in a food desert (further than 10 miles from a supermarket). The result of this can be a diet that consists of mostly pre-packaged, processed foods.

When researching the location of your home for purchasing or selling purposes, consider the locale and access to fresh foods. Healthy neighborhoods thrive when they are in close proximity to local farmer markets, community gardens and have access to grocery stores that carry local and organic products.

Bringing Sustainability to Your Neighborhood

Consider doing a self-evaluation of your own home to explore what you can do to contribute to the sustainability of your community. Start with the exterior of your home. Design your front yard to be both aesthetically pleasing, as well as environmentally friendly. This may mean giving your curb-appeal a facelift and some new landscaping. Landscaping to fit the climate of your local area will require you to think outside the box of a plush, green lawn.

Many areas throughout the western United States have been experiencing drought and cannot support the water usage needed to keep yards from turning brown and yellow as temperatures rise in the summer. If you are particularly attached to having a large green lawn, compromise by reducing the amount of grass you maintain. Your yard could possibly be the one that sets an example for others when you adopt xeriscaping with native perennial plants. Replacing areas of your yard with plants will greatly reduce the amount of water needed to keep your yard healthy and thriving while also adding abundant and vibrant color.

If you have a natural green thumb, contribute your talents by giving back to your neighborhood and establishing a community garden. It is a natural way to get your healthy community moving while offering a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables. This can be done in a local park, an unused lot or by simply replacing the grass in your front yard with raised beds for others to access.

What makes a happy and healthy neighborhood is determined by your own set of core values. Doing your due diligence when purchasing a home can ensure you find not just the ideal property, but a community to call “home.” And for sellers, offering the right information can be what sets your house apart from other homeowners and draws the right buyer to your home.


6 Hidden Costs of Buying a House

Buying your first home is an exciting time. You’ll finally have a place to call your own and can start building equity in it. However, it’s important to remember that the costs of owning a home go beyond your down payment and monthly mortgage payment. Here are several expenses you should consider when creating your budget for buying a house:

1. Home Inspection Fee

After you put an offer on a home and it’s accepted, you should get a home inspection before moving forward with your purchase.

After you put an offer on a home and it’s accepted, you should get a home inspection before moving forward with your purchase. After all, you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars only to learn there’s a significant problem with the house. The price of home inspections varies based on the type of inspection, the location of the home and its square feet. Most inspections cost anywhere from $200 to $400, according to HomeAdvisor.

Other inspections you may want to consider are well, septic and radon, which tests for radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water.

2. Property Taxes

When you’re getting ready to buy a home, you’ll also want to factor in the property tax. While property taxes vary based on your location, most of the country is seeing a property tax increase due to many home values rising. Not to mention, your neighborhood’s property tax can make a huge difference in the cost of housing in the area. But keep in mind, home sales can often trigger a tax reassessment.

Luckily, as a homeowner there are several tax deductions you can take that are associated with your mortgage and the property itself. It’s a good idea to speak with a tax advisor to learn more.

3. Homeowner’s Insurance

Another thing you’ll need to consider is homeowner’s insurance. This helps protect your possessions as well your home in the event it gets damaged in a severe event. Plus, your lender will require it, so it’s an expense you must factor into your budget.

Your homeowner’s insurance premium will vary depending on where you live. There are certain states where insuring a home is riskier than others. For example, if you live in an area prone to hurricanes, you’re likely going to pay more.

Connect with a local insurance agent to help determine just how much coverage you’ll need and if it’s in your best interest to bundle your insurance policies together (which is just using the same carrier for multiple types of insurance, such as home and auto). For some folks, this can help save hundreds of dollars!

4. Private Mortgage Insurance

Typically, Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, is included in your monthly mortgage payment. This protects your lender in the event you default on your loan. Home buyers usually pay PMI when they have a conventional loan and put less than 20 percent down.

If you get an FHA loan for your home, you’ll pay a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). With FHA loans, you pay this regardless of your down payment.

In addition to the amount of your down payment, other factors that go into your mortgage insurance premium are your credit score and your assets.

According to ValuePenguin, most mortgage insurance premiums cost anywhere between 0.5 percent and as much as 5 percent of the original amount of the mortgage loan per year.

5. Closing Costs

Another key consideration when you’re buying a home is your closing costs. These are fees that lenders charge to the buyer for services that must be performed to close the loan. However, many of your mortgage closing costs go to a third-party for services necessary to complete the transaction.

A few of the possible costs involved in the average loan transaction are:

  • Appraisal: This is required to determine the fair market price of the home.
  • Credit Report: Lenders will review your credit report to see your borrowing history and determine if they should lend you the loan amount.
  • Closing Fee: This is paid to the title company or attorney who conducts the closing.
  • Title Company Title Search or Exam Fee: This goes to the title company that searches the property records of your home to ensure there are no liens or problems associated with the property.
  • Title Insurance: This protects you in the event someone challenges your ownership of the home.

Additionally, closing costs can vary depending on your mortgage option and amount. For example, a 30-year rate fixed may not have the same closing costs as a 5-year adjustable rate, according to Quicken Loans. Plus, in some negotiations, the seller may agree to cover all or some of your closing costs, potentially saving you thousands of dollars with seller concessions.

On average, home buyers can expect to pay anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price in closing costs, according to And as a reminder, closing costs are paid upfront.

6. Utilities and Maintenance

If you’re going from renting a place to owning a home, you may have to adjust your budget to start paying for utilities such as electricity, gas and water. In most cases, these expenses will put you back several thousand dollars annually, but keep in mind, as soon as you buy your home, you start building equity in it.  And while it may not feel like you’re saving any money by making mortgage payments each month, you are building up the value of an asset, just like putting regular deposits into a savings account. Remember, the more equity you have in your home, the better!

As for maintenance costs, you also should consider extra expenses such as yard care, gutter cleaning, snow removal (if applicable), air conditioning, washer and dryer, hot water, heater, and carpet cleaning. Also, if you’re moving to a new area, you’ll want to shop around for internet and cable services. Where you live may impact what service you get.

While these are a few of the hidden costs homebuyers typically encounter, every experience is different! Knowing what expenses you’ll need to include in your budget will help you tremendously in your planning. As long as you factor in a bit of wiggle room, you’ll be just fine!


How Can ForSaleByOwner Help Me Find My Dream Home?

You’ve searched and searched to find the house of your dreams, the one that draws you in with every defining detail like it was destined to be yours. And then you find it, but it’s sporting a striking red and white sign with “For Sale By Owner” emblazoned on it.

To some, this statement can be off-putting. Others may be confused about what it means for their home-buying experience. ForSaleByOwner can help. Because understanding these words and their ability to help you is the first step to defusing your fear of the unknown and getting you into your fantasy home.

How to buy through FSBO?

FSBO refers to when owners sell their houses directly to the buyers without getting a real estate agent involved, eliminating the need for Realtor fees. Most of us don’t come from a background in real estate and aren’t accustomed to the process of buying and selling houses. To feel ready, ForSaleByOwner offers several resources to help you get started.

  1. Before diving in, take some time to define your dream house, considering cost, location and amenities. After you have an idea of what kind of a house you want, you can start searching for it on the ForSaleByOwner search page.
  2. Compare homes and get an idea of the cost of recently sold houses in your desired neighborhoods with a valuation report. Making an informed offer goes a long way toward eliminating needless back-and-forth with the seller.
  3. It’s also a good idea to obtain a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E) report, which reveals insurance claims sellers have made on a property within five years. A C.L.U.E report is essential in helping you predict and prepare for future problems that may arise.
  4. Go ahead and get a pre-approval letter from a mortgage company. Presenting a pre-approval letter to the seller makes a great first impression — like that you can afford to buy the house. It can definitely help make the process smoother.
  5. It’s not a bad idea to engage the services of a real estate attorney, who can review the offer and help you close the deal with a contract. Negotiating is an art, one that most attorneys have mastered, so lean on their expertise should the situation necessitate.

FSBO isn’t for everyone, but it’s an option to consider for people who desire the freedom to buy or sell their house on their own time. It introduces a certain intimacy to the business of real estate that’s refreshing and, in some case, invaluable. Because it involves only you and the seller, there’s a distinctly human element and a bond often forms between the two people who are most connected to this home.

Make the most of ForSaleByOwner’s resources and research to discover the dream house you’ve envisioned. It exists, and we can help you find — and buy — it.




Things Homebuyers Should Never Say During an Open House

Touring open houses in a quest to find your new home is exciting for any homebuyer. And while it’s necessary to ask questions while checking out a home, there are some comments potential buyers should keep to themselves.

First, real estate agents, the home’s sellers and the neighbors all have a vested interest in what you say during a tour. Some agents and sellers have even been known to plant recording devices to capture your opinions on the home. This can be a problem for candid buyers, whose comments may leave a bad impression on the seller. The owner could retaliate by being less cooperative or less likely to sell to you based on your opinions.

Second, it can be dangerous to state your opinion of the price of the home. Claiming that the home is too expensive or asking about a specific price before making an offer will give the seller and listing agent more power in the negotiating process. It’s best to discuss a home’s price once you’ve left the property and are with people you trust with that information. Once you’ve made up your mind, making an official offer is the best way to proceed.

Last, don’t forget that the property you’re touring is still the seller’s home. Don’t offend the seller with negative comments about their home’s decor, furniture or personal effects. Focus on the layout and imagine how your own furniture and design elements would look instead. This is a professional transaction, so it’s best to act accordingly and avoid transmitting negative feedback to the seller.

Once you’ve figured out what questions to ask and what comments to keep to yourself, you’ll be able to navigate open houses successfully and, with any luck, find the home of your dreams.

Read the full list of things buyers should never say during a tour, here.


4 Ways to Sell Your Home During the Holidays

There was a time when having a home on the market during the holidays was unthinkable. With buyers preoccupied by cooking, shopping and traveling, conventional wisdom said that house hunters would never have the time to search listings and visit open houses. Today’s buyers, however, can search for homes while making Thanksgiving dinner, on a plane back home or as they shop for gifts. In fact, new studies are showing that homes listed during the holidays are more likely to sell, sell closer to the asking price and sell more quickly. By following a few tips to listing during the holidays sellers can make the most of lower competition and motivated buyers.

1. Take Care of Curb Appeal
Managing a home’s appearance during the fall and winter months is less about improvements and more about maintenance. Clearing the lawn of falling leaves and keeping walkways free from ice and snow is essential. Adding exterior lighting (whether string lights or spotlights) can help shine through the extended nights. Keeping decorations generic and inviting is just one tip to advertise your home during the holidays.

2. Warm Up the Interior
Make the home an inviting oasis where house hunters can come in from the cold and escape the wintry weather outside. Stage for the season with these DIY decorating tips, then get ready to crank up the heat and offer a few treats at showings.

3. Make the Most of Multi-Media
After preparing a home for the holidays inside and out, great listing photos will attract buyers to a sale. During a time when it can be difficult for buyers to view a house in person, creating a video showcase can be a great way to show off a home online. Listings with videos receive more emails from interested buyers.

4. Price it Right
Determining the right price from the start helps sellers make the most of the first thirty days of their listing when they typically get the most views. Evaluating a mix of five active listings, five recently sold listings and five listings that have expired is just one of five tips for strategic pricing.

What are your favorite tips for holiday curb appeal?

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More Home Buyers and Sellers Are Choosing FSBO [Infographic]

The numbers have it: Home buyers and sellers are gaining confidence in the by-owner or FSBO option. These facts and figures can help you seal the sale without an agent.

More Home Buyers and Sellers Are Choosing FSBO

To view, download and print More Home Buyers and Sellers Are Choosing FSBO [Infographic] as a PDF, click here.

The Home Search

Finding a Measure of Foreclosure

Foreclosures are in vogue.

Yecch. What a thing to say.

But it’s true, in one sense: For every disappointed, aching homeowner in default on his mortgage, there seem to be plenty of folks thinking this is their moment to “get into foreclosures,” as they seem to be fond of phrasing it.

I know, because I hear from them all the time, e-mailing me for guidance on how to get started. For the record, I am unequivocally unable to give anybody any guidance. But I have had enough experience as a detached observer to know this much: Foreclosures seem to exist in some kind of parallel real estate universe filled with its own jargon, procedures and — this is important — risk.

Recently, I sat through what is known as a “sheriff’s auction” (though no sheriffs were involved) as dozens of foreclosed properties went up for bid. The experienced investors who filled the room took a pass on every single property offered because there wasn’t enough equity in any of them to make them worth buying. That is, their mortgages were greater than the value of the homes.

This so-called “upside-down” condition is the sad byproduct of the easy-lending era that seems to have played out so suddenly — homes bought with tiny down payments or no down payments or homeowners who have gotten carried away with their ability to use their home equity as a cash register — with the presumption that home values can only go up, up, up.

But there’s another variety of foreclosure auctions, and their growth is a sign of our times. Lenders, having gotten stuck with properties after nobody bid on them at the sheriffs’ sales, are hiring auction companies to sell literally hundreds of homes at a time. Though foreclosure sales have been around for a long time, they’re ballooning in size.

For example, in August the Texas-based auction firm Hudson & Marshall offered about 200 Chicago-area homes in a single sale, according to a company spokesman. She said the firm held a similar auction here last year, with only about 25 homes on the block.

“It’s like an avalanche,” said Crystal Wright, who represents the company. Her firm came into the Chicago auction on the heels of an auction of 200 homes in one sale in Southern California and 400 in Northern California, she said.

What these mega-auctions offer is title insurance and a chance to inspect the properties before the sale, neither of which go with the so-called sheriff’s sale properties.

“We’re starting to see more and more homes ending up being owned by lenders,” says Chicago auctioneer Rick Levin of Rick Levin & Associates. “The lender is looking for an efficient outlet to sell large quantities of these homes quickly.”

Levin points out that despite the popular perception that foreclosure auctions offer a chance to buy a home for pennies on the dollar, lenders aren’t giving these places away.

But they have to do something with these homes, he says. “Banks are in the business of lending money, not in the business of owning property,” he says.

“We’re in a cold climate, and owning vacant properties through the winter isn’t prudent.”

Plus, he says, more are undoubtedly in the pipeline: Housing industry analysts predict that 2008 will see a mother lode of foreclosures because of the sheer numbers of homes purchased in 2005 with adjustable-rate mortgages that are starting to adjust to uncomfortable heights.

So, he says, lenders are motivated, and there can be deals at these sales, though nothing is guaranteed. Typically, potential buyers at these auctions have to come armed with a cashier’s check for several thousand dollars, payable to themselves, that would serve as earnest money; there are numerous other requirements to insure that the bidder is sincere. The auctioneer will add a premium to each sale (in Levin’s case, 7.5 per-cent), which is something to keep in mind if you think you’ve stumbled on the deal of the century.

And, having said that I’m not in the guidance business, I’ll offer this pitch for prudence: Would-be buyers have to do their homework. If it looks too good to be true …

Hear Mary Umberger on WBBM Newsradio 780 at 6:21 p.m. and 10:22 p.m. each Thursday and Friday and 7:20 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday.

via Chicago Tribune
Syndicated with permission.